The Colours of Autumn

October 31st, 2016 | 12 Comments »

I missed the peak of autumn colour this year in the Eastern Townships of Quebec — where colours are as good as (or better than?) any place in North America — because of some trips that took me away from home. So when a friend sent me a photo he took a week or so ago of the hills behind our house, I was delighted.

 

Our house and boathouse are dwarfed by the hills that rise behind.
Our house and boathouse on Lake Massawippi are dwarfed by the hills that rise behind.

 

What a spectacle it was. Friends who were in the Townships say they have never seen colour so vibrant, that lasted for such a long time.

 

My friend took this photo of Lake Massawippi early one morning a week ago.
The same friend took this photo of Lake Massawippi early one morning several weeks ago.

 

The colour is lasting still. Even though the height of the season is past, marvellous colours are still shouting, ‘hey, look at me.’

 

What an array of colours! The view looking out over the Big Meadow never fails to excite me.
What an array of colours! The view looking out over the Big Meadow never fails to excite me.

 

A few days ago, in a brief break from the rain that has been falling (finally!), I took a walk around the garden at Glen Villa. In the Lower Garden, the stephanandra  (Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa) by the steps to the Lower Garden was a treasure chest of gold, its rich colour enhanced by the tones of the stone wall beside it.

 

Golden honey colours surround the steps leading to the Lower Garden.
Stephanandra makes a dense, mounding ground cover and is very effective at controlling erosion on slopes.

 

A random branch of spirea caught my eye, particularly since — tucked unexpectedly behind the leaves — a flower or two was blooming.

 

All shades of red and orange
Spirea shouldn’t be blooming at this time of year, at least not in Quebec. But the warm weather we’ve experienced recently is tricking shrubs and flowers into second and third flushes of bloom.

 

A lonely bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) was blooming as well, but more powerful were the shades of red and green in its leathery leaves.

 

I can overlook the imperfections in the leaves and see only the range of colours. Can you?
I can overlook the imperfections in the leaves and see only the range of colours. Can you?

 

An old hydrangea that has been here for fifty years or so was brilliantly dressed. This shrub is one of my favourites — it reminds me of a similar shrub in our garden in Oakville, Ontario where we lived when our children were young.

 

Pink and creamy white flower heads contrast strongly with orange-toned leaves.
Pink and creamy white flower heads contrast strongly with orange-toned leaves —  who but nature would put these colours together, or make them look so compatible?

 

On the bank of the lake, plumes of miscanthus were strikingly white against a dark green background. And how to describe the colour of the leaves? Orange caramel? Sticky toffee?

 

Miscanthus purpurea is not my favourite ornamental grass, but it does make a strong statement when it blows in the wind.
Miscanthus purpurea is not my favourite ornamental grass, but it does make a strong impression when it blows in the wind.

 

Orange and yellow are the dominant colours now, and the prairie dropseed (Sporabolus heterolepis ) at the Aqueduct combines them in a splendid burnt orange that reminds me of John Keats’ poem about autumn.

The poem opens with familiar words — “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.”  The words and the poem as a whole speak more of mood than colour. Which isn’t surprising — mood is what autumn is all about.  There’s sadness for what is gone and a wistful longing for what is to come. But for me the crisp air and blazing colour make the longing hopeful. When I see the arching prairie dropseed moving in a breeze, like “hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind,” I don’t mind that the air is cooler day by day. I feel happy.

 

Sporabolus heterolopsis at the Aqueduct makes my heart beat faster.
Sporabolus heterolepis at the Aqueduct makes my heart beat faster.

 

Keats really captured the spirit of autumn. His lines reverberate and recall seasons past and present, when apples bend the “moss’d cottage-trees/ And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core…”

 

Keats said it: To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees/ And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
This photo is from 2013. But every year the fruit on these old apple trees is beautiful — and tasty.

 

Today, as a light rain falls, the black trunk and branches of the linden tree at the end of the Big Meadow (aka, the Big Lawn) offer a startling contrast to the yellow leaves that linger.  Despite the rain and winds, despite the sprinkle of snow and the light frost that greeted me a few morning’s ago, they are hanging on, ripe to the core.

 

Mellow fruitfulness.
Mellow yellow indeed.

 

What is autumn like in your part of the world? Does it make you sad or happy? Or both?

 

 

Ascott: A Garden Review

October 25th, 2016 | 11 Comments »
The hours are shown in Roman numerals, the text in block letters circling behind.
Note: Recently I became aware of a technical glitz that was causing problems with the delivery of this blog. It has now been resolved. To those of you reading a blog post for the first time, even if you subscribed many months ago -- my apologies for the delay and welcome to the Site and Insight blog! I welcome your comments.   "It is magnificent. It is what God would have done if he had the money."   I don't know whose garden Noel Coward was describing when he penned those words, but you

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Prospect Cottage: A Garden Review

October 12th, 2016 | 12 Comments »
The cottage retains its original strongly contrasting paint colours.
  The garden at Prospect Cottage, located in Kent on England's east coast, was created by the late Derek Jarmon, a filmmaker, diarist and early advocate of gay rights. It is a garden that sits lightly on the land while simultaneously conveying a powerful sense of place. It is also one that elicits a strong response from visitors. Either they like it or they don't, are intrigued by it or walk through quickly, dismissing what they see as a collection of rubbish with some flowers thrown in.   [caption id="attachment_4107" align="aligncenter" width="1200"]

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Yin and Yang at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden

October 3rd, 2016 | 8 Comments »
Black and white, rough and smooth
Vancouver's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is an  oasis in the middle of a busy city, a place to rest and reflect on a garden tradition that reached its peak in the Ming dynasty (1358-1644). In accord with the Taoist philosophy of yin and yang that guides the garden's design, the aim is to balance opposing forces and thereby to achieve the equilibrium that constitutes perfection.  Behind the walls that separate the garden from the city, contrasts of dark and light, flexible and immovable, rough and smooth, large and small combine to create a picture

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